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Interview With Stormy Daniels Attorney Michael Avenatti; Trump Campaign Met With Kremlin Informant; Interview With Congressman Joaquin Castro; Peace in Korea?; Defense Official: U.S. Has Observed Dismantling Activity at North Korea Nuclear Test Site. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: The lawyer who famously met with the president's son and other aides at Trump Tower now admits she's a Kremlin informant. It's raising new questions about the Trump team's denials about what happened behind closed doors.

And promising peace? The leaders of North and South Korea take historic steps toward ending decades of old conflict. President Trump calling it encouraging and vows that his talks with Kim Jong-un will not be played.

And we want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ACOSTA: Breaking tonight, Stormy Daniels' lawsuit against the president and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, is on hold for 90 days. Stand by for new reaction to the judge's ruling from Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.

Also breaking, the Russian lawyer who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016 now reportedly is acknowledging that she's an informant for the Kremlin. the Republican leading the House Intelligence Committee's Russia probe tells CNN that's new information to him as the panel releases its controversial findings.

This hour, I will talk with a Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Congressman Joaquin Castro. And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by.

First to CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju.

Manu, that Russian lawyer had closer ties to the Russian government than previously revealed.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, saying she was an informant to the Kremlin catching many people by surprise on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans alike.

The Republican running the Russia investigation told me that was news to him, but did not see this warranting any need to investigate further as part of the House Russia investigation, where the Republicans concluded there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

But, Jim, this new revelation shining new light on this meeting that occurred in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and Trump campaign officials and Russian operatives.


RAJU (voice-over): The Russian lawyer who attended a 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. now acknowledging she's an informant of the Russian government.

In newly released e-mails from 2013 reporting by "The New York Times," Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is shown coordinating closely with the office of a senior Kremlin official, the prosecutor general.

"I'm a lawyer and I'm an informant," she told NBC News. "Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general."

The disclosure shines a new light on a 2016 meeting she attended with the president's eldest son and senior campaign officials, when Trump Jr. initially was promised dirt on the Clinton campaign that never materialized.

On Capitol Hill today, the Republican who ran the House's Russia investigation acknowledging he was unaware that she was an informant of the Russian government.

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: That's new information.

RAJU: This on the same day that the House Intelligence Committee released its report from the Russia probe. The Republicans' conclusion? They found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

(on camera): Is it troubling you in any way that she was a Russian informant and had a meeting with senior level Trump campaign officials in 2016?

CONAWAY: No, because that's not how she presented herself, and there is no evidence that she acted on that.

RAJU (voice-over): The House GOP report does fault the Trump campaign's periodic praise and communications with WikiLeaks as -- quote -- "highly objectionable and demonstrating poor judgment."

Plus, it says both the Trump and Clinton campaigns took ill-considered actions, including the Trump campaign's decisions to meet with Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower.

In one interaction described in the report, Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in December 2015 before he joined the Trump campaign at the Russian Embassy with then Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Flynn traveled to Moscow.

The report cites e-mails exchanged between Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen and business associate Felix Sater over a proposed Trump Tower Moscow project in an effort to set up a Trump-Putin meeting.

Sater told Cohen that "If Putin gets on the stage with Donald for a ribbon-cutting in Moscow, Donald owns the Republican nomination."

The efforts to set up a Trump-Putin meeting didn't end there. In one brief interaction, the report says Trump Jr. met briefly with a government official during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting.

The GOP report concludes that the brief meeting centered on shooting and hunting and not the campaign.


RAJU: Now, Democrats released their own views today that actually contradicted some of the things that the Republicans asserted or provided more details on some things, including that NRA interaction between Donald Trump Jr. and that Russian official.

They cited e-mails in the run-up to that meeting in which there was a disclosure that this was part by the Russian government to make a -- quote -- "first contact" between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

Now, in that same Democratic report, it cites from e-mail from Aras Agalarov, who is that Russian oligarch who is central to setting up that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.


And, apparently, he sent a gift, an expensive painting to then candidate Trump the day after that June 2016 meeting. Trump later thanked him for that gift, what we called a sensational get.

In addition, Agalarov's son Emin Agalarov had been contacted by twice by Donald Trump Jr. to pursue dirt from that June 2016 meeting. There's a third phone call that had been blacked out. The Democrats wanted to know if this was Donald Trump's number that had been blacked out, a communication between Donald Trump Jr. and candidate Trump, his father, about that June 2016 meeting.

But the Republicans deny their efforts to subpoena for those records, so questions still linger, despite this report -- Jim.

ACOSTA: New details come in, new questions arise.

Manu Raju, thank you very much.

Tonight, President Trump says he's honored by the House Intelligence Committee's report and he's encouraged, he says, by historic peace talks between North and South Korea. The president is taking some of the credit for progress on the Korean Peninsula, while criticizing his predecessors for not making it happen sooner.

Let's go to CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the president is setting the stage for his own talks with Kim Jong-un, in setting the bar somewhat high for his talks with Kim Jong- un. Is he overpromising in terms of what he can deliver?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, that is a central question here.

And no doubt at all the president and the White House has been watching what is happening at the DMZ, watching those historic meetings. The president clearly wants to be a part of those meetings as well. He said that a historic meeting between him and Kim Jong-un is likely still happen the next month or so.

The U.S. has narrowed it down to a couple different sites. Now, he said he would not be naive and would walk away from a deal if it doesn't look like it's happening. But as of now, the stakes are high and he's optimistic.


ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump hailing his potential history- making role on the Korean Peninsula.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a world problem. And it's something that I hope I'm able to do for the world.

ZELENY: After North and South Korea agreed to work toward abolishing nuclear weapons in a deal that could finally bring an end to the Korean War.

TRUMP: I look forward to our meeting. It should be quite something.

ZELENY: The president eagerly anticipating his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. CNN has learned Singapore and Mongolia are two top locations favored by the U.S.

TRUMP: I think some very good things can happen with respect to North Korea. We're setting up meetings now. We're down to two countries as to a site.

ZELENY: The president's high-stakes diplomatic gamble now one step closer to reality. Through tough sanctions and a willingness to hold face-to-face, talks he said he would fix what other presidents did not.

TRUMP: Honestly, I wish it was handled earlier. I wish it were handled by another administration years ago. I'm not just talking about President Obama. I go back to any administration you want. But over the last 25 years -- this should have been handled long time ago, not now. ZELENY: The president insisted he was not being naive or misled by

the North Korean regime. He said he would walk away if Kim wasn't serious about shelving his nuclear program.

TRUMP: The United States in the past was played like a fiddle. That's not happening to us.

ZELENY: North Korea front and center today during a visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She received a warm welcome on her second trip to the White House, but hardly the fanfare lavished on French President Emmanuel Macron during a three-day official state visit this week.

The president said he was confident North Korea would keep its word, conceding dramatic changes in the last year.

TRUMP: Things have changed very radically from a few months ago, the name-calling and a lot of other things.

ZELENY: All that old name-calling from the president.

TRUMP: And, by the way, Rocket Man should have been handled a long time ago.

ZELENY: Replaced today by cautious optimism.

TRUMP: I think I have a responsibility to see if I can do it. And if I can't do it, it will be a very tough time for a lot of countries and a lot of people.

ZELENY: The Iran nuclear deal also at the heart of talks between Trump and Merkel, with a deadline looming for the president to decide whether to pull out of the agreement.

Asked about consequences for Iran resuming its nuclear program, the president said this.

TRUMP: They will not be doing nuclear weapons. That, I can tell you. OK? They're not going to be doing nuclear weapons. You can bank on it.

ZELENY: The president also lamenting another high-profile casualty in his Cabinet with Dr. Ronny Jackson's decision to withdraw his nomination to lead the VA after a swirl of questions about his conduct and experience.

TRUMP: I called him today. I said in a certain way you're -- in a very big way, you're an American hero, because you have exposed the system to some horrible things. I have had it happen to me with the Russian collusion hoax.

ZELENY: Embracing a report today from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that found no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia, the president made clear his old rival is still fresh on his mind. TRUMP: They were very forceful in saying that the Clinton campaign

actually did contribute to Russia, so maybe somebody ought to look at that.



ZELENY: The president there once again turning to a familiar standby, the Clinton campaign, to say the whole rush investigation is a hoax.

Jim, as you know, we have heard the president say that so many times before. The reality, though, there is still a real investigation going on. It's a cloud over this White House, but more importantly, as this potential summit with the leader of North Korea continues, this is something that could be a major legacy item for the president, the stakes certainly high, but the outcome could be as well.

So the White House is preparing for that potential meeting. That could happen in a month or so, Jim. And that could be a worldwide game changer -- Jim.

ACOSTA: We will all be watching for that. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.

And joining me now in THE SITUATION ROOM is Congressman Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who serves on the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees in Congress.

And, Congressman, I want to get back to this revelation about the Russian attorney who is actually working with the Kremlin, it turns out. Now, I guess that was suspected. We thought that might be the case early on.

But now that we have this information in hand, what does it mean, you think?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), TEXAS: Well, it's so terribly disturbing. It confirms our worst fears, that Donald Trump Jr., the campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner were sitting there with a Russian spy who has deep ties to the Kremlin and deep ties to Russian intelligence.

ACOSTA: And so when the president says no collusion, it's all a hoax, it's all of witch-hunt, I have been cleared by this House Intelligence Committee report and so on, your response to that is what?

CASTRO: Well, on one level, Jim, it's very sad, because this investigation did have so much potential to be fair and thorough.

But it didn't go that way. Instead, it was basically a light once- over, bringing in witnesses, asking them their version of events, and never verifying information that they told us.

The committee didn't use any of its subpoena power even once to verify phone records or travel records or any kind of records that would verify what was being told us. So, in many ways, it was a kind of kindergarten investigation.

ACOSTA: And do you think that the president had advanced knowledge of that meeting? We haven't really been able to get to the bottom of that.

CASTRO: Yes, I think Manu mentioned in his piece these basically suspicious phone calls, series of phone calls where that meeting is being set up at Trump Tower, and there's a blocked number, a call that is made with it comes in right around that time. And so it's an open question whether Donald Trump Jr. before agreeing to that meeting at Trump Tower in June of 2016 consulted with his dad.

We also had other folks who basically let us know that in fact Donald Trump has a phone number that is blocked.

ACOSTA: And do you believe that at that time then candidate Trump that they had dirt on Hillary Clinton, that the Russians have dirt on Hillary Clinton and that that's what was being offered? I guess that is the big question.

CASTRO: Yes, I mean, there's no question the Trump campaign was looking for it, that Donald Trump was begging for dirt on Hillary Clinton, and also that WikiLeaks at that point possessed it.

And that's just one of the secret or clandestine meetings that occurred. There was also the George Papadopoulos episode, where there's this Russian operative, a professor that meets with him, and tells him about all this dirt they have got on Hillary Clinton.

So there was -- there were a lot of things that were very disturbing and we believe amount to collusion.

ACOSTA: And what does that mean in the end, collusion? Because you hear from some of the president's allies who say, well, that's not a crime, that doesn't mean anything.

What's your response to that?

CASTRO: That there was an effort, a coordinated effort, to affect the election, an effort by the Trump campaign and Russian operatives to have a real effect on the election.

ACOSTA: And let's turn to North Korea, because you saw in Jeff Zeleny's report the president is taking a lot of credit for what happened over there.

It is amazing to watch what has taken place over the last 24 hours, this historic meeting. Nobody can deny that. Does the president deserve any credit for bringing this, this meeting together, for making this happen?

CASTRO: That's a great question.

First, those photos and the video are historic. The leaders of North Korea and South Korea shaking hands, speaking and crossing over back and forth between South and North. Now, the question of whether the president deserves credit is an interesting one. If the answer to that is yes, then it's because of basically childish name-calling that he engaged in, Twitter rants that he engaged in, the threat of nuclear war.

So, if the president's going to take credit using those methods...

ACOSTA: But does he deserve credit?

CASTRO: I mean, I don't know. It's hard to say.

You have got President Moon from South Korea that came in, who is basically a relatively new president. And his approach was a different approach than the past president of South Korea, who basically didn't engage North Korea.

This president in South Korea was determined to engage North Korea.

ACOSTA: And I get the sense that you don't want to give the president credit for this.

CASTRO: I'm just not sure if what he did is what caused these two leaders to actually come together.


But let me say this. It's quite possible that the strategy that he used in basically trying to believe this guy prompted this guy to come to the table or was helpful with that. That's quite possible.


And let me ask you about this, because a lot of people are talking about this here in Washington, especially up on Capitol Hill, this firing, this resignation, I guess forced resignation, of the House chaplain.

A lot of lawmakers on your side and on the Republican side are very concerned about what happened here to Reverend Pat Conroy. The House speaker I guess is claiming -- Paul Ryan, who is outgoing, is claiming that there was no a political motivation here.

What do about this? Because, I mean, people are responding to -- we see it on our Web site -- they're very interested in the story. What do you make of it?

CASTRO: Yes, it was kind of bizarre when I heard about it. I was kind of surprised.

Father Conroy was somebody who interacted with everybody, who was always there to listen to folks. He would move around the House floor and talk to Republicans and Democrats and, as far as I could tell, was well-liked by everybody. And I didn't sense that anybody had a real grievance with him because he said something in a prayer or anything like that. So it took me by surprise.

ACOSTA: Are you satisfied with the speaker's explanation? Should there be an investigation into what happened here?

CASTRO: Yes, I think the House Administration Committee should investigate it. I think that it looks like the speaker may have fired him for political reasons, because he didn't like the words that were in a prayer or two.

ACOSTA: This is that prayer back in October about tax reform. They deny that.

CASTRO: Right.

ACOSTA: You're concerned that that's not the full story?


I mean, you can't -- I think any religious leader is going to lay out certain principles and values and that's going to come through in prayers. And I didn't think that what he said was necessarily meant to be an affront to any kind of Republican policy or politics. That's just -- he's just expressing the values of religion there.

ACOSTA: Congressman Joaquin Castro, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for coming on.

Just ahead: Has a Russian lawyer been lying about her Kremlin ties and her meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower? We will talk more about that revelation that she's an informant.

And what's next for Stormy Daniels' lawsuit against the president and Michael Cohen now that a judge has put the case on hold? I will talk live with Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti. That's coming up.



ACOSTA: Breaking news this hour, Stormy Daniels' lawsuit on hold. A judge ordering a 90-day stay in the porn star's legal battle with President Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen.

I will get reaction from Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, in just a moment.

Right now, let's bring in CNN's crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz.

Shimon, this ruling came down a short while ago. And there's some big implications here.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Certainly are, certainly for the lawsuit that Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti have filed against Michael Cohen. This certainly now puts this case on hold, unless Michael Avenatti, who tweeted shortly after this decision came down that he was going to appeal, unless he wins this appeal.

But central here is the fact that the judge agrees with Michael Cohen that he has the potential to be indicted, to face criminal charges in this New York case, where the prosecutors there are still to search through some of the documents that they seized in a raid of his home, his office.

So that is ongoing and it is likely, according to the judge in the California case, that he will face criminal charges in New York and therefore that is why this judge has decided that would be best to put a stay on this to give the protections that we all have against self- incrimination.

And in this case, for Michael Cohen, the judge has decided that at least a 90-day stay is appropriate in this case.

ACOSTA: So, while it's good news in some respects for Michael Cohen in terms of this L.A. lawsuit, Michael Avenatti's case, at the same time, it's an indication that there may be some very troubling days ahead for Michael Cohen.

PROKUPECZ: Certainly. Certainly so.

And, Jim, just to read something to you from the from the court filing that the judge's decision -- the judge here says, "Whether or not indictment is forthcoming, and the court thinks it is likely based on these facts alone, these unique circumstances counsel in favor of stay."

So, there you have the judge certainly in the California case thinks that Michael Cohen is going to be indicted, is going to face charges in the New York case, and therefore that is why in part of the judge is making this decision.

Really, Jim, the judge goes for some other issues with this case and really talks about the criminal case in New York and how unique it is because he was the president's attorney or is the president's personal attorney, laying some of that out in this decision.

But central to this that the judge really feels because, as you said, that some tough days ahead from Michael Cohen, that it's probably best to protect him against self-incrimination.

ACOSTA: Very interesting. OK, Shimon, thank you.

Joining me on the phone now with reaction to all this, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti.

Michael, thank you for coming on.

Why can't you wait 90 days of work for this to play itself out? What's your beef here.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Well, Jim, we don't know that it's only going to be 90 days.

I think if we knew that it was only going to be 90 days, that would be different. But we don't have a lot of comfort that the stay is not to be reviewed after 90 days, that Michael Cohen and Mr. Trump are not going to try to further delay this case.

In fact, we anticipate it. Jim, I was comforted by the fact that a sitting federal judge agreed with something that I have been saying for weeks, which is that Michael Cohen is highly likely to be indicated for very serious offense.

And Judge Otero agreed with that. Our issue is, is that we want to get on with this lawsuit, adjudicating the issues associated with this lawsuit.


And I think, Jim, for you and others that have been paying attention over the last six to seven weeks as it relates to the way that we litigate, we have got a lot of cards to play. This not a huge surprise to us.

And I think that people will tune in, in the coming days and weeks and we will see how this plays out.

ACOSTA: And what's the argument for your appeal? Is it that you want to depose Michael Cohen, you want to get him under oath in sworn testimony, so you can get to the bottom of what happened with that payment?

What will be the grounds for your appeal?

AVENATTI: Well, the grounds for the appeal, Jim, will be that we want to proceed with discovery and get these claims adjudicated and there's no reason why they can't proceed in parallel with the criminal investigation and potential indictment.

We don't know exactly how long that's going to take. And we just don't want to be put on ice during the interim time period. And more importantly, Jim, I think the problem is, is that there's no evidence in the record for Mr. Cohen or Mr. Trump that they can't defend themselves if Mr. Cohen is forced to plead the Fifth.

And we think the Ninth Circuit may very well have a problem with that.

ACOSTA: And that's essentially what the judge said in granting the stay, that Michael Cohen may be indicted. He has indicated that he's going to assert his Fifth Amendment privileges.

And I suppose what you might say is, well, OK, fine, we can depose him and he can take the Fifth over and over and over again, but it's our right to conduct that and undergo that process. Is that essentially what you're saying here? You still want to bring him in and have him deposed?

AVENATTI: Well, that's exactly right, Jim. I mean, you really put the -- you really hit the nail on the head. That's exactly what we're saying. We're saying that we have the right to take that position and have him plead the Fifth on the record, as deponents do day in and day out across the United States, and then in turn we have the opportunity or should have the opportunity to depose the president and ask him questions about what happened here.

So we're analyzing our options. I'm highly confident that we will probably end up taking this to the Ninth Circuit. I'm sure there's going to be some other legal developments next week that we have yet to announce.

ACOSTA: And it is that a realistic expectation on your part, that you think eventually you will have the president of the United States be deposed in this case?

Do you really think that's going to happen?

AVENATTI: I do think it's going to happen. I think it's going to happen in this case. I think it may happen in an analogous case relating to a defamation claim we may be bringing against the president relating to his tweet where he called my client a con or suggested that she lied to the American people.

And so we may very well be bringing that claim here shortly.


ACOSTA: And if the judge stayed the case, why do you think an appeals court would see things differently, do you think?

AVENATTI: Well, because I think, from that evidentiary standpoint, they didn't meet their burden. And I think the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is going to look kindly upon some of our arguments and also is going to agree that at this point we don't know how long this case is going to be delayed.

And they just haven't shown that they can't defend themselves without this testimony.

ACOSTA: And by the time you go through the appeals court process, won't the 90 days be up? How is that affected?

AVENATTI: Well, it's a good question.

I mean, we don't know how. They could take it up and in very short order and issue a ruling, or they could they could set a briefing schedule that might exhaust the first 90 days.

But, again, I want to go to what I said. If we get -- if this was only about 90 days, I don't think we would taking it up on appeal. I mean, we might. But we're concerned about it being delayed beyond that.

My client continues to fall under this NDA, according to the defendants. They continue to threaten her with additional millions of dollars in damages. She wants to be clear of this. And she wants the defamation claim against Michael Cohen fully adjudicated.

ACOSTA: And before I let you go, Michael, have you identified the man who you say threatened Stormy Daniels? Are there any developments in that?

AVENATTI: We're continuing to work through the leads.

I mean, I think that we're getting closer by the day. We're spending a lot of time on it. We're not ready to make an announcement quite as of yet.

ACOSTA: OK, but are -- any progress? I mean, are these solid leads that you're seeing here with this? Since the sketch has been out, I would think a lot of information has come in.

AVENATTI: Yes, well, you're absolutely right about, Jim.

A lot of information has come in. And a fair amount of it has been credible. And I think we have narrowed the field quite a bit and made considerable progress.

ACOSTA: OK, Michael Avenatti, if you do figure out who that person is up, please let us know. And thanks for joining us at the last minute. Thanks for talking to us.

AVENATTI: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: Good talking to you very much.

AVENATTI: Bye-bye.

ACOSTA: Just ahead: President Trump touts the report by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee about the Russia investigation, even as critical new details about Russian connections emerge.


ACOSTA: We're following breaking news. A significant piece of evidence in the Russia investigation involving one of the central events under scrutiny. The Russian lawyer who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting in 2016 now reportedly admits she's an informant. Let's bring in our team of analysts and experts and Phil Mudd, I'll go to you first. What does this mean now that this attorney has come forward, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and said she is a government informant, basically a spy?

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER CIA COUNTERTERRORISM OFFICIAL: I'd be careful about that word spy. This is more three dimensional then it looks. She looks like she would call an access agent. Thant is, if I want to find a Russian who is significant and I want to access that individual, I'm not going to walk up in my old life and say I'm a CIA guy, you want to talk to me? I'm going to find somebody with a credible reason to be in the room. That person may not be a KGB or post-KGB agent but they not even be trained in espionage, but they have the one thing that you can't replicate, a reason to be in the room. [18:30:00]

So as soon as I saw her say that, my first question is who sent you there and what did they ask you to report out when you left the room? What was the end game here? Was it simply the provision of information? I think she's an access agent, not a spy.

ACOSTA: Interesting. And Joe Jackson, if the Trump people said nothing came of the Russian dirt offer on Hillary Clinton and at meeting focused on adoptions, what did these developments mean now do you think?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well Jim, think about this for one moment right. You have someone who apparently has significant connections with the Russian government, not just predicated upon what she said but predicated upon how now she's been vetted, information that's been discovered in emails that have been found relating to her communications with them. So think about the fact she's able to infiltrate and able to sit in on a high level meeting.

You can say it's about adoptions; you could say it's about dirt on Hillary. Say about whatever you want. There's a Presidential candidate running for office. Look at that meeting Jim. Look at the people who are involved in that and you have a person that has this connection to the Russian government and apparently these officials don't vet her properly and don't know of that connection and it adds further insight into really the dynamic between what Russia has done, our ability apparently not to discover it or Trump's people ability not to discover or know about it and be involved in it. I think it's significant in as much as it's another piece of the puzzle in terms of Russia connecting with this campaign and being able to meet with top officials in the first instance.

ACOSTA: And Russia -- Trump officials not doing enough vetting. That's an interesting subject. Let me ask you this. What does it mean this lawyer is coming out and admitting this now? Is there something we should read into the fact this information is coming forward now? Is this a message being sent by the Russians to say listen, this person was our person?

MUDD: It's got to be a message. She's got to be doing this with the support of the Russian government. One of the things she's revealing not just who she is but the extent of her ties with government. I think that's significant because I'm looking and Joey picked up on this. Forget about her; we're not going to interview her. I want to see the history of data, email and phone, and see if she's got a relationship with people either in wiki leaks world or the U.S. political universe that goes back to 2013 or 14 or 15. Is it just one meeting? I suspect it's much deeper than that.

ACOSTA: And Ryan does it complicate what the White House was saying today, about what House Republicans were saying today when they released this report and low and behold we find out this attorney was an informant with the Russian government.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When I saw this, I had the same question you had. Is this the Russian sort of trying to create a little bit more controversy? You know one of the things that Putin does when he meddles in places is first thing they do is they deny it. Then they say maybe we did have something to do with it and they brag about it, you know years on.

ACOSTA: Crimea being one of those examples.

LIZZA: Exactly. So I was waiting for when Putin starts to sort of brag about the meddling rather than denying it. Maybe this is part of that, maybe it's something else. It definitely complicates the House report. Unfortunately, the House Intelligence Committee broke down into partisan bickering. The report itself while it has a lot of interesting information in it, it does seem like the Republicans on that panel, the majority, decided they were going to be the defense counsel for the Administration rather than do a thorough investigation. I think our last hope to really understand what happened in 2015 and '16 is the Muller investigation with a glimmer of hope that the Senate Intelligence Committee panel might be a little more bipartisan.

ACOSTA: Rebecca, I think that is critical, right? What does this mean for the Muller investigation?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well absolutely, it shows how important the investigation is. The President is saying this is a witch hunt that is pointless and just being used as a political tool. Clearly there's something here. Whether the President's came campaign participated knowingly in this or whether they were just being used is an important distinction. We hope that he will uncover that information but this is also something that lawmakers should be very interested in because this is a problem moving forward; vulnerabilities in campaigns. Russian attempted infiltration into a campaign. This will not be tend of the story. Campaigns should be ready for that.

ACOSTA: And Joey Jackson, I want to turn to the other storm clouds hanging over this White House, this 90 day stay and lawsuit in the Stormy Daniels case. What do you make of that and what does that mean for Michael Cohen? Because on the one hand, it sounds helpful for his cause in that he might not be deposed in the near future but the judge is that case is saying well the indication is that there may be some charges coming in New York.

JACKSON: You know Jim, it's the right call from the judge and here's why. Remember that the civil case in California relates to civil issues. That's whether it's a nondisclosure agreement, whether it's ultimately about money. What the Administration needs to do in the first instance is just get it resolved


And settle it. But any case involving money pales in comparison to a case involving criminality. When you have and we're looking at the souther district right there. That's a criminal court and you do have certain 5th Amendment rights and those 5th Amendment rights are not to say a thing. And so the judge putting the case over for 90 days knowing that Cohen could be implicated if he testifies for a deposition, Jim, he has to answer some hard questions. We know that one of the issues --

ACOSTA: Even if he takes the Fifth, can he just time and time again say --


ACOSTA: -- I take the --



JACKSON: Absolutely. But if he's going to do that then what a value a deposition is for discovery is to get critical information to further your case and to the extent you're going to say I take the Fifth, I take the Fifth, I take the Fifth. What then is the value of the deposition moving forward? So I think the judge made the right call. The question for me now becomes whether the case can go on in his absence, that's without him supplying any information and whether now Trump or anyone else can now be interviewed.

I think that's what Michael Avenatti will be pushing for. But as a practical matter, Michael Cohen has the right not to say a thing. The judge knows it. Mr. Avenatti knows it and I think he will just push for the litigation to continue even if Michael Avenatti stays monk (ph).

ACOSTA: And we have to cover the rest of the waterfront on this right? We have to get to North Korea because you're very critical of the President from time to time. Does he get my credit for what we have seen over the last 24 hours, North and South Koreans coming together with this potential breakthrough to denuclearize a very dangerous part of the world.

MUDD: Let me give you a strong maybe. What I learned in the intelligence --

ACOSTA: From you that's a lot.

MUDD: That's a lot. We're trying to understand what motivated a dictator to move. My experience in 30 years of watching dictators, they move when they think their personal stability is in question, when they feel threatened. Why does Kim Jong-un feel threatened? Is it because of decades of sanctions are finally winning? Does he know something about his inner circle we don't? Did he look across the Pacific Ocean and say wow, that dude in the White House is nuttier than I am and I'd better worry.

We're assuming we understand what his motivations are for making this move. I suspect they're a little deeper than I got nervous over the past 90 days.

ACOSTA: And it's not over yet. MUDD: It's not over yet.

ACOSTA: All right. All right. Thanks very much guys we appreciate it. Coming up when Kim met Moon. The striking images as the leaders of North and South Korea take historic steps toward peace.


[18:47:14] ACOSTA: We're following breaking news on North Korea. Just hours after historic talks between the North and South, CNN has learned the U.S. has observed what appears to be dismantling activity at North Korea's nuclear testing site. That will be consistent with Kim Jong-un's promises to shut down the facility has he prepares for his next big summit with President Trump.

CNN's Will Ripley is on the Korean peninsula.

Will, this is stunning. These stunning events over the last 24 hours as North and South Korean leaders agree to end a nearly 70-year-old war. It's like we're watching history unfold before our eyes.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It truly is remarkable. We know that South Korean President Moon Jae-in is back here in Seoul at the Blue House right now. We presume he will be talking with President Trump first over the phone and then he'll be flying to Washington to brief the president about exactly what he learned during the hours that he spent yesterday with Kim Jong-un.

We don't know what happened behind closed doors. But out in the open, we saw a side of the North Korean leader we've never seen before.


RIPLEY (voice-over): A charm offensive for the history books. Kim Jong-un, the first North Korean leader to set foot in the South, going off script, urging South Korean President Moon Jae-in to cross the military demarcation line onto his turf.

Kim writing his own rules with a bold message in the peace house guest book: A new history begins now.

Each carefully choreographed photo-op designed to project a budding bromance, a surreal first date between two leaders that seemed to go so well, you could almost forget just 12 months ago, North Korea threatened to turn Seoul into a sea of fire.

Rolling away in a black Mercedes flanked by his elite security detail, North Korea's strong man made an abrupt rhetorical U-turn, even cracking jokes about his country's lack of infrastructure.

Our roads are uncomfortable, Kim said. I know it because I just came down here. A self-deprecating dig on the struggling North Korean economy, a situation made worse by the biting sanctions led by President Donald Trump.

South Korea and Trump himself giving credit to his maximum pressure campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said there were two alternatives. Let them have what they have or go to war. And now, we have a much better alternative than anybody thought even possible.

RIPLEY: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, after his own meeting in Pyongyang, says he believes Kim is serious in his efforts. By days' end, Kim and Moon signed a stunning but vague statement, pledging to end the Korean War and denuclearize the Korean peninsula, without specifying what denuclearization actually means.

[18:50:07] RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: One question is how far does it go? And then the other bigger question to me is what would North Korea ask in exchange.

RIPLEY: Kim Jong-un projecting confidence and swagger, giving an unprecedented press conference before the international media, serving up a side of himself the world has never seen, at a lavish banquet featuring Pyongyang's now famous cold noodles and a champagne toast to peace.

Now, the question many are asking, what happens when buzz wears off?


RIPLEY: The ball really now is in President Trump's court and tonight we know discussions are ongoing between the United States and North Koreans about where this potential summit will take place. Within the past few hours, President Trump gave some hints. He said they've narrowed it down from five locations, to two or three potential locations for the summit.

And sources familiar with the discussion are telling CNN that U.S. officials are favoring Singapore for what would be the first sit-down meeting between a sitting U.S. president and North Korean leader. If you thought today was extraordinary, Jim, just wait until that happens, if it does.

ACOSTA: It will be fascinating wherever it happens. Will Ripley, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

And more breaking news coming up in just a few moments.


[18:55:58] ACOSTA: Tonight, a potential lifeline for in addicted to opioids. Chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is investigating whether medical marijuana could help ease the deadly and growing epidemic. It's part of his ground breaking series, "WEED", the fourth installment debuts this Sunday.

Sanjay spoke with Wolf Blitzer and shared a preview of his report on pot versus pills.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got in to pain medicine at a time when we didn't have very good treatments for pain.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Wallace is the director for the Center of Pain Medicine at UC-San Diego. He like, most of us doctors, was taught in school to prescribe opioids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were told that, well, there's evidence that the use of opiates were probably not that risky and that we should use them more liberally.

GUPTA: It was the 1990s and doctors were seeing a lot of commercials like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These drugs, our best, strongest pain medications, should be used much more for patients in pain.

GUPTA: Problem is, while they were FDA approved for some kinds of pain, they were never intended to be used long-term.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We went along with some of the advertisement that was coming around and the education that we were given in medical schools.

GUPTA: Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, believes that have the beginning of our opioid crisis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We started to see patients who were prescribed opioids for their pain addiction who had never been addicted to anything becoming addicted to those drugs.

GUPTA: We knew there was a danger, we knew that they weren't as effective after a period of time, and yet it still happened any way.


UNDENTIFIED MALE: We started questioning whether we should be using opioids, but we didn't have a lot of alternatives at the time.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Sanjay is joining us right now.

Sanjay, you've been reporting about medical marijuana for nearly five years now. What have you learned from this latest report? What surprised you?

GUPTA: I think what surprised is I think people are really coming to terms with how bad this opioid epidemic is, but that cannabis, that medicinal marijuana could have a significant role here, a significant one. You have doctors like the one you just saw, Dr. Wallace, he's running this pain center in San Diego, about 80 percent of his patients have been weaned off of opioids using cannabis, hundreds and hundreds of patients, and that's happening all over the country.

We know cannabis can treat pain, so it could be a substitute for the underlying opioid. We know it can treat the withdrawal that people suffer from when they're coming off of opioid. That's really challenging.

And we also learned quite surprisingly wolf that it can actually help heal the brain. The addict's brain is diseased in some way, meaning they can't really say no to more and more opioids. Cannabis seems to heal that. So, in some ways, if you had to design something to get us out of the opioid epidemic, it would look a lot like cannabis.

BLITZER: You've written a letter to the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, imploring him to reconsider the classification of marijuana as a schedule one drug. Tell us about that.

GUPTA: If a substance is considered schedule one, it means a couple of things. It means, first of all, that it's considered a high abuse potential. And we know and there's plenty of data to show that while there can be some abuse and some concerns about psychological addiction to marijuana, it's not high abuse potential like heroin and cocaine, which are also schedule one. But I think more importantly, from a medicine standpoint, Wolf, if it's a schedule one, that basically means the government says it has no medical benefit. It has not medicinal benefit.

And we know that's not true. We know that it can help treat pain. We've known in the past, you and I have talked, Wolf, about how it can treat seizure when nothing else has really worked. So, not only can it be a medicine, it can be a medicine that solves problems that others don't.

So, it's not a schedule one substance. It shouldn't be a schedule substance, and that's part of what this letter really is talking about to the attorney general.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much for doing this critically important work. We really appreciate it.

GUPTA: We got it, Wolf. Thank you.


ACOSTA: And Dr. Gupta's series, Weed versus or "Pot Versus Pill", "WEED 4" airs Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching. Have a great weekend.

Erin Burnett starts right now.